Salman Rushdie attacked onstage at New York event

Author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s was stabbed in the neck and abdomen, police say

A man has been taken into custody after author Salman Rushdie was stabbed on stage in New York state.

New York state police have named the suspected attacker as Hadi Matar (24), of Fairview, New Jersey.

In a press conference held in Jamestown, New York, police officials alleged the suspect jumped on stage and stabbed the writer at least once in the neck and once in the abdomen.

The 75-year-old novelist, whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was about to deliver a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution when he was attacked.


Rushdie was taken to hospital by helicopter where his condition remains unclear, said state police late on Friday.

His agent Andrew Wylie said the writer was undergoing surgery but had no other details. Photos from the scene showed him lying on his back with his legs in the air and a first responder crouched over him.

Rushdie’s book the Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims view it as blasphemous, and its publication prompted Iran’s then-leader Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa calling for his execution.

He was due to speak to Henry Reese, from the City of Asylum organisation, a residency programme for writers living in exile under threat of persecution. They were due to discuss America’s role as an asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression when they were attacked.

A video posted to Twitter by an Associated Press reporter in the audience showed a man dressed in black being led away from the stage.

A statement from New York State Police read: “On August 12 2022, at about 11am, a male suspect ran up on to the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer. Rushdie suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck and was transported by helicopter to an area hospital. His condition is not yet known. The interviewer suffered a minor head injury. A State Trooper assigned to the event immediately took the suspect into custody. The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office assisted at the scene.”

New York governor Kathy Hochul told a press conference that a state police officer saved his life and that of the moderator, who she said was also attacked.

“He is alive, he has been airlifted to safety. But here is an individual who has spent decades speaking truth to power, someone who’s been out there unafraid, despite the threats that have followed him his entire adult life,” she said.

Jeremy Genovese (68), a retired academic from Cleveland State University, told the PA news agency he arrived at the amphitheatre as it was being evacuated and that people were “streaming out”.

He said: “People were in shock, many people in tears. Chautauqua has always prided itself as a place where people can engage in civil dialogue.

“The amphitheatre is a large outdoor venue where people have given lectures since the late 1800s. You need a pass to access the grounds but it is not too difficult get in.”

Rushdie’s publisher Penguin Random House said they are “deeply shocked and appalled” by the incident.

The chief executive of Penguin Random House, Markus Dohle, said in a statement: “We are deeply shocked and appalled to hear of the attack on Salman Rushdie while he was speaking at the Chautauqua Institution in New York.

“We condemn this violent public assault, and our thoughts are with Salman and his family at this distressing time.”

Rushdie began his writing career in the early 1970s with two unsuccessful books before Midnight’s Children, about the birth of India, which won the Booker Prize in 1981.

It went on to bring him worldwide fame, with it also later crowned the “best of the Bookers” on the literary award’s 25th anniversary. His other works include the Moor’s Last Sight and Shalimar The Clown, which was long-listed for the Booker.

The author lived in hiding for many years after Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for his execution over his 1988 book the Satanic Verses.

The Iranian government withdrew its support for the death sentence in 1998 and Rushdie gradually returned to public life, even appearing as himself in the 2001 hit film Bridget Jones’s Diary

The Index on Censorship, an organisation promoting free expression, said money was raised to boost the reward for Rushdie’s killing as recently as 2016, underscoring that the fatwa still stands. - PA